Monday, March 31, 2008

Love those buttons

I saw on Abbie’s blog that Analise at Sugar*Sugar hosted a button challenge, asking bloggers to post photos of their buttons. I love my button collection, but after looking at some of the ones posted, my little guys look rather ordinary in comparison.

Nevertheless, and despite missing the challenge, this afternoon I spent time that should have been spent working taking pictures of buttons. (This is not the first time I've done this, as shown by two of these bookmarks.) The sun was actually out today (I’m still in shock) so I was determined to do it outside, even though it was very windy and I ended up with shadows of my blowing hair in half the pictures. Some of my buttons blew right off the table and rolled off the deck. I’m sure my neighbors were wondering what the heck I was doing later, peering around the carport looking for lost buttons.

So here they are, or at least here are the photos that don’t have hair shadows in them. Some of these buttons have lived in my button box for years.
Some were recently bought on a whim, with no particular project in mind.
After all the gloomy weather, I was happy to sort out the red ones
and the blue ones.
My collection includes buttons big and small,
buttons colorful and plain,
and buttons of many shapes.

I don’t know much about their vintageness. Some were inherited from my great aunt and my grandmother and some were bought at thrift stores. Many are left over from completed projects and others were bought for projects that never quite got completed. Some were found on the street and others came as spares with shirts and sweaters or were cut off worn out clothing. Most of them are either fairly plain in style or were meant for kids’ clothes.

Compared to some, my collection of buttons is more utilitarian than fancy, but I like it anyway. It reminds me of past projects, of things I’ve made for my children, and of people I care about.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday #6

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weekend failure and success

This weekend saw a failure and a success at our house.

First, the failure. I really, really wanted to make some fabric Easter eggs like the ones I saw on Abbie's blog. So on Saturday, after much fighting with my computer and printer to print the pattern at the right scale and, having gotten it close but not quite right, finally resorting to a pencil and a ruler, I opened my big box of fabric scraps, a box that hasn’t been opened in far too long. I chose two fabrics, cut out the pieces, and sewed them together. As I started to stuff this egg wannabe, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t very eggy. But I kept at it, hoping that if I stuffed it full like the directions said, it would take on an ovate shape. Alas, I ended up with an Easter ball.

I was pretty sure that the lack of egginess was due to my lack of sewing precision, so on Easter Sunday I tried again. The result, while more egg-like than the Easter ball, could in all honesty be described only as an Easter blob.

I gave both the Easter ball and the Easter blob to the cats, telling them that the Easter bunny had brought them some new toys. They, having been up all night playing with the Easter eggs that had been carefully hidden all over the living room, knew I was lying.

This effort, while it failed to produce the beautiful fabric eggs I was hoping for, was not a real failure. I rediscovered my scraps, reminisced about the projects they came from, and got inspired to open that box more often. I will keep trying with those eggs. If I start tomorrow, I’ve got 362 days to get them right.

The success was much more exciting. Child Two finished her first embroidery project.
It’s from a great book called Kids’ Embroidery by Kristin Nicholas. We found it at the library but it’s so full of fun projects that we’ve ordered it.

Kitty (as she’s called) is made from felt scraps left over from a Winnie the Pooh costume I made for Child Two long, long ago (at least I think it was for her and not for her brother, but finding out for sure would involve delving into the Photo Cupboard of Doom). We didn’t have any suitable colors of tapestry wool in the stash and BigName Craft Store doesn’t carry it (this is part of the reason we are on a quest for alternative supply sources), so we ended up getting Patons Astra for the yarn. It was a little too thick and it meant that I had to do all the needle threading, but it turned out fine.

Child Two is very happy with Kitty, especially because she did all the stitching herself. The book shows one model made from an old wool coat. We’re going to keep an eye out for fun and funky fabrics to make some friends for Kitty.

I also finished the purple scarf I started at the art gallery last month, but I couldn’t get a good picture of it. How I long for bright days, when my camera doesn’t ask for the flash for any close range photo! I’ll try again as soon as the sun comes out.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rainy day beading

The night before last, Child Two had a friend sleep over. Sleep over? Ha! Very little sleeping was done. They had planned to make bracelets, but they got sidetracked building a sheet-and-chair fort, which they played in for hours and then “slept” in. Two of the cats didn’t quite understand that a sheet, while technically a solid object, is not strong enough to stand on when it’s supported only by several dining room chairs. Dottie tried it first, before bedtime. In the middle of the night, what little sleep the girls did get was interrupted by Jamie crashing down on them: “And down will come kitty, sheet, chairs, and all.”

After her friend left in the morning, Child Two decided to keep the fort up (it’s still there now) and in the afternoon she and I sat inside and made memory wire bracelets together.
These are very easy to make. All it takes is some memory wire (so-called because it retains its coil shape), a pair of wire cutters and a pair of pliers (round-nose ones work well), and beads. Our local BigName Craft Store carries two sizes of memory wire, one just right for kids and one just right for adults. Cut the wire to whatever length you want (if someone has been pretending the wire is a Slinky—Child One, was that you?—you may have to untangle it first), curl one end with the pliers, and start beading. When you’re done, curl the other end. That’s it.

It was rainy yesterday and the day before that, so Child Two and I decided we needed some bright spring colors. What could be better than sitting in a homemade fort on a gloomy day with great company, 70s tunes cranked up on the stereo, playing with beads?

By the way, we're still in search of brownie recipes and online craft stores. Leave a comment if you've got something to recommend!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wordless Wednesday #5

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In search of . . .

Child Two and I are on a quest for two things: (1) the perfect chocolate brownie recipe and (2) craft stores other than Michael’s.

I love baking—except for cakes, but that’s a trauma too hard to discuss. When I was in grad school, I was known for my baking (in our department, we took our potlucks seriously). In fact, a friend once received a marriage proposal from a complete stranger at a picnic based on the cookies she’d made from a recipe I gave her.

Despite this, though, I’ve never found a brownie recipe I really like. As we made another batch of just-okay brownies this weekend, Child Two and I decided to launch a search for the perfect chocolate brownie recipe. If you know any good ones, please share!

Now, as for Michael’s—I probably spend as much money there as the next crafter, but that’s mainly because it’s almost the only choice I have for most things. I miss the days when there were options, when the department stores had fabric departments and I could look for what I wanted in any one of several stores in my own town. Big stores like Michael’s certainly serve a purpose, but when what you want isn’t the same as what their buyers think will sell or is out of stock, you have a problem. I ran into that when buying the beads for this bracelet, which Child Two and I made together on the weekend—stock was low and the color choices were slim.

(The fact that the model is a little glass vase is due to the fact that Child Two and I are both suffering from Ugly Winter Hands Syndrome.)

Instead of whining about it (although I must admit I do a bit of that too), we’ve decided to seek out all the craft and art supply stores we can find in the Greater Vancouver area and make ourselves a little directory. Since Child One and Child Two are on spring break, we started today at Granville Island, a former industrial area that is now a tourist’s and artist’s haven. Besides exploring some of the shops, we went to the kids’ market (so LOUD) and to the public market, where we admired food and flowers:

We also went on an aquabus for short harbor tour.

We didn’t buy much today, just some tiny mandarins,

four handmade buttons from Nepal (I bought one for each of us and Child Two bought the heart one for me),

a catnip wool ball,

and some ice cream that didn’t make it home for pictures.

We’re also looking for good online craft supply stores of all kinds. Leave a comment if you have one to recommend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Book review: Knitting for Peace

I didn’t realize how much time had gone by until I posted the latest Wordless Wednesday photo right above the previous Wordless Wednesday photo. I have been doing a bit of crafting in the last week—some knitting and some sewing—but I’ve also had some nasty work deadlines. It is so sad when work gets in the way of the really important things.

But yesterday I had a little bit of unexpected extra time, and instead of using it to get a leg up on those deadlines, I started writing this instead. Priorities, right?

I recently made two hats (an adult size and a child’s size) from Knitting for Peace by Betty Christiansen. And I also read the book from cover to cover. I don’t usually read knitting books. I collect them, arrange them on my shelf, flip through them, admire the pictures, skim through the instructions, make grandiose plans to knit several stunning or useful items, but I don’t really read them. This book, however, is for reading as much as it is a source of patterns.

Christiansen wanted to bring together the stories behind organizations that use knitting to help others “in amazing ways.” And she certainly has found a wide variety of them. As someone who has been crafting for charity for decades now (am I really old enough to say that?), I knew about a lot of them, but there were many more I had never heard of. No matter what your interests, beliefs, or point of view; no matter what your skill level; and no matter whether you prefer to knit, donate supplies, or buy yarn or handmade items, there’s probably an organization here that will appeal to you.

What really got me when I read this book were the stories behind the groups—who started them and why they did it. Usually it was one or two everyday people who had a good idea or had seen firsthand people who need help or had turned their own experience with tragedy into something that helps others. Then, through the generosity of others like them, their efforts grew. And they grew—often into international projects involving thousands of people.

Last week I was listening to an interview with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot) on a podcast from the Lion Brand site. The Yarn Harlot website has raised almost half a million dollars for Doctors without Borders. In this interview, Pearl-McPhee was asked if she thought knitters were naturally more generous than other people. Her theory was that knitters have a better understanding than most of how each little effort contributes to the whole. Any knitted project is made up of hundreds or thousands of little efforts. So for knitters (and other crafters, I’m sure), the making of one hat to cover one head does not seem as insignificant as it might, because we know that when you add up each of those hats, you’ve covered a whole lot of heads.

The book contains 15 patterns designed especially for charity knitting. I’ve knit only one so far, but they’re meant to be fairly easy and quick, and many of them are suitable for personal knitting as well. It also includes the websites of several groups that sell yarn, supplies, or items knit by women trying to improve their lives.

In the first section of the book, Christiansen gives a brief history of wartime knitting in the United States and shares the remembrances of Red Cross knitters (check out the vintage patterns on the Red Cross website!). One strong message that comes through from this section, and from the whole book, is how charity knitting benefits everyone involved—the knitter, the organizer, and the recipient.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday #4

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wordless Wednesday #3

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Bulletin board makeover

The favorite food of the former owner of this house must have been mushroom soup, because she painted every room either a light or dark shade of browny-gray mushroom-soupiness (except for Child Two’s room, which was bright red, and the kitchen, which is a dark gray). Now I know that mushroom soup is a trendy color, but when you live in one of the rainiest parts of one of the rainiest areas in the country and there is a forest in your backyard and when your whole house is this color, it gets somewhat overwhelming (not so overwhelming, though, to make me get around to painting more than a couple of rooms).

When I chose the color for my office, the coldest one in the house, I wanted something that at least looks warm. And I got it. Instead of the Tuscany gold promised by the paint chip, my walls turned out to be California poppy orange. It was a shock at first, but I loved it because (a) it’s bright, even on the dullest day and (b) I’m from California. Abandoning the calm Tuscan-inspired d├ęcor I’d envisioned, I’ve gone back to my roots and am slowly but surely putting together a fun, bright environment in which I spend the bulk of my day reading other people’s blogs working.

Last year I painted an ugly old metal filing cabinet bright red. This was my first attempt at spray painting (not a success) and then at brush painting metal and involved lots of whining to Hayley and hard lessons about paint and humidity (see “one of the rainiest parts of one of the rainiest areas in the country” above). Thank goodness Hayley is a goddess of painting and could help me even from 1200 miles away. I love this cabinet now and I’m covering one side of it with tacky, touristy magnets like you’d find in a beach-town souvenir shop.

Needing another bulletin board (because you can never have too many), this one to help me in my never-ending struggle to not overschedule my work, I started with an old one I happened to have lying around in our storage room. I sanded and painted the frame with some red acrylic craft paint I happened to have lying around.

I pondered for a while about what to use to cover the faded and cracked (and now paint-splattered, because I am not a neat painter) cork. I finally decided on some used California road maps I happened to have lying around. They weren’t the right dimensions, so I cut them into pieces and did a collage kind of thing. I printed up my current and upcoming schedule as well as lists of things to do for two long-term projects I’m working on; the yellow paper I happened to have lying around, left over from printing handouts for a children’s writing workshop I taught in a few years ago. I have lots of room for other schedule-helping notices (like a big sign that says “Just say no!”).
The whole project, then, was completed with things I happened to have lying around (the sheer variety and volume of which is scary), except for the hangers on the back. We probably have some of those lying around too, but finding specific tools or pieces of hardware is a major and sometimes dangerous undertaking here (I will say no more on that topic) so it was easier to buy some.

I’ve got other ideas for covering the cork when the maps get too full of holes: magazine pages, pictures from old calendars, scrapbooking paper (of which I have a big boxful, although I don’t do any scrapbooking), blown up photos. I may do a board for over my sewing table using old patterns. For my kids, both musicians, I could use sheet music. And yes, I do happen to have all of the stuff, including at least a few more old bulletin boards, lying around.